We all know that smoking is bad for us, with a wide range of detrimental health effects plus the financial burden of maintaining the habit, but actually quitting can be much more easily said than done.
For those who have developed a heavy habit over a long period of time, it can be extremely difficult to cut cigarettes out entirely, due to their highly addictive nature. But help is available, with a wider variety of alternatives, quitting aids, support groups and other assistance than ever before.
As today (10 Mar) is No Smoking Day, there’s never been a better time to think about cutting out the bad habit.
What methods of quitting are available?
There are a few different ways you can approach quitting smoking.
The one you choose will likely depend on your motivation for giving up, how severe your habit is and personal preference.
While some people would argue that it is the most difficult way to do it, many experts recommend going ‘cold turkey’ - cutting out cigarettes entirely in one go - as the most effective and beneficial method of quitting smoking.
Alternatively, for those who are particularly reliant on cigarettes and find the idea of abruptly cutting them out too difficult, there are a number of ways you can “phase out” smoking.
This might involve gradually cutting down the number of cigarettes you smoke, working toward cutting them out entirely, or it might mean swapping cigarettes for some form of nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches, gum, tablets or nasal spray.
While there are still some concerns about the health impacts of vaping, research shows that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, so can also be used as a way to phase out smoking, particularly as it mirrors the physical movements of smoking.
What support is available?
There are a number of ways you can get support to help you quit smoking, in person, online or on the phone.
Firstly, the NHS offers a stop smoking service, and you can find out where your nearest service is available by putting your postcode into this website.
There are also often a number of local independent groups, which you can find through search engines, as well as online communities set up to help you quit smoking.
Nicotinell, which makes products to help people quit smoking, recommends setting up a “stop smoking support group” and has a section on their website with tips from ex-smokers who’ve succeeded in kicking the habit.
There are also a number of books aimed at helping people to quit smoking, with the most popular and highly regarded being How to Quit Smoking, by Allen Carr.
Tips on quitting
Once you’ve decided you want to quit smoking, there are a number of ways you can help yourself stick to the decision.
Many experts recommend thinking about your motivations for quitting - maybe you want to improve your health and fitness so you can play with a child or grandchild - and analyse the reasons you smoke in the first place.
By knowing your weaknesses, and keeping in mind a strong motivational factor, you’re much more likely to cut out the cigarettes for good.
The NHS lists a number of self-help tips for quitting smoking, including:
- Think positive: just because you’ve tried before and failed, doesn’t mean you won’t succeed this time, so it’s important to have faith in yourself and your ability to quit
- Make a plan: Anything that’s worth doing is worth planning, and something as difficult as fighting an intense addiction is always going to be a struggle. Give yourself the best chance by setting targets and goals, as well as dates, and develop methods to avoid or cope with situations where you might become tempted, such as parties or social events.
- Consider your diet: For many people, the cigarette after a meal can be the most difficult to kick, but studies show that what you eat has a big effect on the sensation you get from smoking after a meal. Certain foods, like cheese, fruit and vegetables make cigarettes taste worse, whereas meat can make cigarettes feel more satisfying.
- Change your drink: Drinking is another big factor in smoking for many people, even those who don’t habitually smoke can be tempted by one or two when they’re drinking socially, but by changing your choice of drink you can reduce the temptation. Studies have shown that water and juice can help make cigarettes less appealing, and switching to something like vodka and tomato juice can also help.